Ranch Roustabouts Christmas – 1890
Original poem by Frank Jones, courtesy of Teense Willford.
It’s rough to be a button, and a roustabout at that,
When Christmas snow comes driftin’ deep and white across the flat
And all the older cowboys are a slickin’ up for town.
You’ve got to swaller mighty hard to keep the blubbers down,
For someone’s got to stay behind, the way a ranch is run.
To feed the stock, and it’s just your luck to have to be the one.
Slim’s got a gal he aims to spark, Tom’s goin’ on a toot,
They’re all plumb full of vinegar for a Christmas gallyhoot.
Frank aims to celebrate at church, have dinner with his Ma.
Your own folks will be missin’ you way back in Arkansas.
In town there’ll be a Christmas ball for Breeze’s dancing feet,
With old friends meetin’ up again and bright lights on the street.
Ol’ Slim he makes the offer that he’ll stay and you can go,
You savvy what it means to him, so you just tell him no.
You’ve hired on as a roustabout, and you’ve got no folks in town,
Too young for gallyhootin’, so you’ll hold the rancho down.
You don’t make no complaint, of course, no whimper and no sob,
For you’ll never make a cowhand if you can’t hold down your job.
You watch ’em mount to ride away across the frosty morn,
And you’ve never felt so lonesome since the day that you were born.
You hear Ol’ Breezy holler as he gives his pony slack.
We’ll fetch you out some candy, kid, whenever we git back
It snows some more on Christmas Eve, and so you go to feed,
You fork the hay out generous, it’s more than they will need.
But Christmas kinda gits you and your feelings overflow,
Towards every livin’ critter that’s stuck out in the snow.
Come Christmas Day you try to read some wore out magazines,
But all you hear is lonesome wind, and all you eat is beans.
You’re 40 miles from nowhere and the days go draggin’ by,
Before the boys come driftin’ home, wore out and red of eye.
You don’t barge out to meet ’em, for by now you’re kinda sore,
You slip into the kitchen when you hear them at the door.
“Come git your stick of candy kid,” you hear Ol’ Slim’s command.
You have to swaller hard because it’s more than you can stand.
So Slim he comes and gits you, and it make your gizzard drunk,
To see your brand new cowboy gear that’s piled up on your bunk.
There’s chaps and boots, a saddle, and a pair of fancy spurs.
“Well, there’s your candy kid,” grins Slim, your vision kinda blurs,
You being just a button and a roustabout to boot,
You purt near bust out bawlin’, you sure don’t give a hoot.
For though you’ve sure been lonesome while you held the rancho down,
It’s sure ‘nough Merry Christmas when the boys git back from town!
Dick & Marty Perue
CAPTION: Original 1918 drawing by Bill Gollings entitled “It Will Never Do,” courtesy of Bill and Carole Ward. Historical Reproductions by Perue